Freetown Journalist’s Death: Suspects Flee to London

31 July 2005 at 18:28 | 1199 views

Following the death of For Di People Deputy Editor Harry Yanssaneh, two of his alleged attackers have fled to London, England, to avoid arrest and prosecution in Freetown.Yanssaneh was recently beaten by thugs allegedly on the orders of SLPP parliamentarian Fatmata Komeh-Hassan.Details:

Very reliable sources in Freetown have intimated the Patriotic Vanguard that two of the thugs that brutally attacked For Di People Deputy Editor Harry Yanssaneh are now in hiding in London. The sources say human rights activists in the British capital have been alerted and a warrant for their arrest could be issued by the London police as soon as their presence is confirmed.

Meanwhile France-based Reporters Sans Frontieres has called for an autopsy of Yanssaneh’s body to determine the cause of death.At a vigil in Freetown, one of Yanssaneh’s relatives stated that the journalist died as a result of the beating he suffered and that he had no illness prior to the beating. We publish below the statement from RSF sent to us by Vincent Brossel of the Africa Desk:

30 July 2005

Call for autopsy after death of editor of For Di People

Reporters Without Borders expressed sorrow at the death of For Di People interim editor Harry Yansaneh on 28 July 2005, more than two months after he was savagely beaten up by henchmen of Fatmata Hassan Komeh, a deputy in the ruling party.

The worldwide press freedom organisation called on the authorities to hold a rigorous investigation including a post mortem to determine the exact causes of the journalist’s death.

The editor and founder of the newspaper, Paul Kamara has been in prison since October 2004 after being sentenced to four years for “seditious defamation” based on a complaint from President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

Fatmata Hassan Komeh, a member of parliament for the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), on 10 May 2005 ordered her henchmen, some of them her family members, to beat up Yansaneh, for reporting negative comments about the government.

Her two sons, accompanied by three other men, burst into the editorial office and beat the journalist, drove staff out of their offices, blocked access to the paper and vandalised equipment. Yansaneh was left with his body and face swollen from his beating. A complaint was made to the police but they have so far taken no action. Some sources said that several of the assailants had since left the country.

“We are saddened and distressed by the death of Harry Yansaneh, after nearly three months in hospital, “said Reporters Without Borders, offering the organisation’s profound solidarity to his family and colleagues. “It is inconceivable that the police should find any further reasons not to investigate the case and find the assailants and the instigator of the attack.

“An autopsy must be held to determine the cause of Harry Yansaneh’s death in particular whether he died of the injuries inflicted on him by Fatmata Hassan Komeh’s henchmen.”

”The authorities in Freetown must realise that this tragic episode means yet another blow to a profession already hit by the unfair imprisonment of Paul Kamara, for whom Yansaneh was editing For Di People in his absence,” it added.

On the same day as the attack on Yansaneh, Komeh forced six independent newspapers - The Independent Observer, For Di People, The African Champion, The Progress, The Pool and The Pioneer - to leave the offices that they had been renting for more than ten years.